Asking questions…

Image: Pixabay

My son was never ‘into’ history at school. He learned what he was obliged to learn and promptly forgot most of it.  Add to that the effects of the black holes in memory caused by brain injury, and many of the things he did learn now have to be learned anew. He remembers only outlines and the details need to be filled in. It is an interesting process, for where a child will accept such facts as books and teachers recount, the adult mind has a different perspective and questions every detail. This often leads us into deep discussion and down convoluted paths, but this time, the subject was so harrowing that we were kept on track.

My son asked me about the Holocaust. It had been touched upon at school, but he had been taught nothing about it there that had struck the emotional chord that made it stick in his memory. He had been listening to an audiobook written by a Jewish survivor of the camps and could not come to terms with the horror and inhumanity of what he was hearing. He wanted to know what had happened. I directed him to the archive footage of the concentration camps that is now available and he was horrified beyond words. He asked the same question most of us ask. How could it happen? Not from an ideological or political viewpoint… for the details of history are easily researched… but from a human perspective.

We went on to discuss other periods throughout history, where nations of apparent moral rectitude have committed atrocities on a scale that beggars belief. And always with the moral justification of acting in the best interests of their country. From British atrocities during the Mau Mau Uprising, to the French Reign of Terror, from Guantanamo Bay to the Shoah, few nations, including my own, can in all honesty hold up their hands and show them to be free of blood shed by injustice and prejudice.

How can any human being perpetrate such horrors against another?

The only answer I could give him was that I have no answer. I can theorise all I like, but I will never, I hope, feel the kind of prejudice that sows the seeds of such madness. Yet, I cannot know that for certain. Propaganda is insidious. It is controlled by those who are able to drip-feed the population enough poison over time to create a toxic group mind that can become capable of things they would never have believed possible of themselves as individuals. And, properly indoctrinated, they will believe they are acting in the best interests of their country, group or system.

Many of the perceived differences that create hatred and prejudice are simply the result of the lottery of birth that determines the colour of our skin, the country we call home or the faith in which we are raised. Prejudice takes many forms and can start so early we are not even aware of it. Born in Yorkshire, I learned early that ‘all southerners’ think we are stupid, boorish and backward. I learned later that this was completely untrue… and my own sons are now de facto southerners. It is a small thing, but it introduced the seed of an idea… that prejudice becomes reciprocal and both propagates and perpetuates itself.

There is an old prophecy of a time when national bloodlines and identities will have mingled so much that we are all of a single colour. That seems possible at some future date with our current global movement, though I think we would find our society less vibrant without its mix of cultures. Were we all of one race, would there still be anything against which we could raise hatred? I would like to think not, but I fear that there will always be those who see ‘divide and rule’ as their path to power and who will find any weakness to exploit, even if it includes marginalising and dehumanising some sector of the population. But the future is ours to write. We are each responsible for how we choose to live.

When all is said and done, most human beings want only to live in peace with their neighbours. We are just ordinary folk who recognise that other ordinary folk may be different from ourselves in some way, but that we are all just human beings trying to do our best for our families. We recognise that our communities can only be enriched by the wider horizons of a diverse society.

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email:
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68 Responses to Asking questions…

  1. Most of the worlds problems are due to greed and jealousy, Sue. That is my view in any event. I touch on this thought process in my new book Through the Nethergate. I did research into how ordinary people can become mass murderers. What you have said here is true. People are fed poison all their lives and can “dehumanise” others thereby not seeing them as people like themselves.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Patty says:

    Reblogged this on Campbells World and commented:
    In this post Sue writes of things I see happening right here and now in my country and round the world.
    The post asks the questions many of us ask and speaks to truths many of us try to ignore.
    Read, and share this post.
    Help, stop the madness.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. jenanita01 says:

    In this day and age, why is peace so elusive? Haven’t we all had enough proof of its opposite?


  4. Another good piece Sue. I cannot understand how anyone can do such horrendous things to another human being.


  5. An interesting post, Sue. I’m convinced there will always be something to cause one group of people to be suspicious and distrust another group no matter how much they have in common. I’ve worked hard to overcome any prejudice I was taught in my youth. It has deep, powerful roots and isn’t easy. Even people who have suffered prejudice can feel another type of prejudice toward another and see nothing wrong with it. —- Suzanne


  6. Reblogged this on Musings on Life & Experience and commented:
    On the subject of prejudice and man’s injustice to man.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. jwebster2 says:

    I always remember the quote from ‘Small Gods’ by Terry Pratchett

    “There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do.”

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Darlene says:

    A poignant post, Sue. Just when I think humankind is moving in the right direction, it seems to take a few steps backward. I often wonder what kind of a world we are leaving our grandchildren and their children. We can only hope kindness will prevail.


  9. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    Question everything until diversity = unity in humankind…

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Mary Smith says:

    Well said, Sue. Your reply to Robbie’s touched on something I was going to say – that a lack of empathy allows people to act in horrific ways. I wonder how much empathy and imagination are linked?


  11. Violet Lentz says:

    This just tor at my heart. So many layers of sadness and in the end unanswered questions…


  12. Chuck says:

    Well said and a great explanation to your son. What is disheartening, our social discrimination continues today at some level. The divisiveness within my county (US) is the worst in history (at least during my 73 years). Our leadership instills it within their followers. You would thank humankind would learn their lessons from history, but history continues to repeat itself. Thanks for an inspiring post.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. trentpmcd says:

    The scary thing is I can see some of the signs cropping up in today’s society. The intolerance, the dehumanizing large groups of people – they aren’t people, they are monsters who want to kill you and destroy your way of life, drug dealers and rapists. And there are people who live lives of fear that believe it 100%, who hate The Other, whoever the other may be. It is scary. I think the entire world needs to relearn the lessons of the Holocaust and needs lessons in empathy. I think it should almost be mandatory to talk to at least one person a day who is not of your “race”/skin color, religion, nationality and/or sexual orientation. They say the more people get to know people unlike themselves and see them as people, the less likely there will be prejudices.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sue Vincent says:

      It is exactly that, Trent. You can only really fear what you can continue to see as Other, but when you have laughed together, shared a cuppa, chatted about ordinary things, it is hard to fear someone.
      That’s one of the beauties of the online world… we do get to meet so many wonderfully varied people from every area of the world, every day.

      Liked by 2 people

  14. rivrvlogr says:

    Much to consider here, Sue. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. felicity936 says:

    Thanks for this, Sue!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. May kindness prevail…

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Pingback: Asking questions… | Ann Writes Inspiration

  18. noelleg44 says:

    You hit the nail on the head, Sue. I wish our politicians could realize that the ordinary people who make up our country do not think like they do…

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Eliza Waters says:

    You’ve hit the nail on the head, Sue. “Propaganda is insidious. It is controlled by those who are able to drip-feed the population enough poison over time to create a toxic group mind that can become capable of things they would never have believed possible of themselves as individuals.” This is what I’m worried about over here…scary stuff. We really have to remember that the majority really are good and decent folk. May sanity prevail!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. V.M.Sang says:

    In the early 60s and through to the 70s there was great optimism we were moving in the right direction. I don’t know when it changed. I think back t what I have learned about the rise of Nazi-ism in Germany in the 30s. Many Jews saught refuge in other countries. They were welcomed with open arms, people knowing what they were likely to suffer if they remained in their homelands. Now, though, we say we don’t want refugees and those seeking asylum from brutal regimes. The words ‘asylum seeker ‘ have become synonymous with undesirables.
    What has gone wrong with us? Where has the sympathy and understanding we had in the 30s gone?
    I want to reblog this, but I’ve just posted, so I’ll do ot tomorrow. It’s very important.


    • Sue Vincent says:

      Thank you.
      I agree… we have ‘learned’ to see refugees as a troublesome burden at best or a danger at worst…when most of them are people like us fleeing for their lives. We have lost our way somewhere…

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Well written Sue. Nazi-ism was slow moving and fear based. It concerns me that we are getting close to that again. Globalism is a wonderful thing to those of us who have the capacity for empathy, and own an open heart and mind. Those with ignorance are easily swayed as they were in 1930s Germany. It also saddens me that schools have dropped this from their curriculum. You must be proud that your son wanted to know what happened. ❤️


  22. Jennie says:

    I have never been in a position to explain the ‘why’ of such atrocities. I vividly remember seeing the cover of Life magazine and Treblinka concentration camp in the 60’s. Like Nick, I was horrified and confronted my mother. She had the same answer as you. Learning helps us solidify our beliefs, morals, and values.


  23. Widdershins says:

    I wonder if the ‘global one race’ is such a good idea. I certainly don’t think it’s achievable in the forseeable future, we’re far too tribal. (big tribes, small tribes, for all sorts of reasons tribes) Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s when someone can’t define what their own tribe is and tries to either force their way into someone else’s tribe, or force others to join theirs, that the troubles occur.

    This is a very apt topic for me at the moment as I’m already putting together the framework for my next book, (not letting the grass grow under my feet) where I’m exploring how to create a society where that kind of ‘tribalism’ exists peacefully, and how it might’ve come into being from where we are now.


  24. A lot to think on, Sue. It is sad to see the rise of hatred in the U.S. of late. However, history shows that we, too, haven’t been free of blood on our hands. I wish we could all get along, come to terms with the differences and learn from each other. The problem is, I think a lot of people stand in the way of that.


  25. heatherjo86 says:

    “there will always be those who see ‘divide and rule’ as their path to power and who will find any weakness to exploit, even if it includes marginalising and dehumanising some sector of the population”
    This truth is beautifully stated. Thank you for this. Your post reminds me of Ecclesiastes 8:9 where it mentions that “man has dominated man to his harm”. And Jeremiah 10:23 which says, “I well know, O Jehovah, that man’s way does not belong to him. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” As imperfect humans, we are too greedy, selfish and haughty to reign over others without mistreating them even if we start that way with the best intentions. I have hope that God will soon rid this world of the wicked and we will live in peace without the threat of mass genocide or war (Psalms 37:10,11; Danial 2:44). It seems that your son got his first glimpse into how evil the people in this world can be.


    • Sue Vincent says:

      Peace would be good, but we have a great deal to learn before we will achieve it. And I think my son has more than enough experience of what man can do to his fellow man.


  26. gracespeaker says:

    Your statement “ I would like to think not, but I fear that there will always be those who see ‘divide and rule’ as their path to power and who will find any weakness to exploit, even if it includes marginalising and dehumanising some sector of the population” brings to mind the Dr. Suess story of the Sneetches.


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